International students stranded in Canada for the holidays

by | Dec 4, 2020 | Campus News, News, North

The holiday season is usually the time of year to spend with family and friends, but for some students this year, taking a trip home will not be easy, if they can make it at all.

“I haven’t seen my family in over a year,” said Zahrya Musgrove, a recent Humber Business Management graduate.

Because of rising cases of COVID-19 cases, travel restrictions have been put into place across the world. Flights are being reduced, and even cut to some parts of Canada and other countries.

“It was hard to book my flights,” Musgrove said. “I booked them and then a week later they both were cancelled. Luckily they rescheduled them, but I’m scared that they could just be cancelled again at any time.”

Musgrove, an international student from Turks and Caicos, moved to Toronto alone to attend Humber College but misses her family, who live on the island.

“I’m rather scared, I want to see my parents but I’m afraid to fly right now, you never know what will happen, I could even go and just not be able to come back,” she said.

With more than 6,500 international students attending Humber, Musgrove isn’t alone.

“It’s the first time I’m not going to be able to spend Christmas with my family. And I’m all alone here too,” said Mei-Lynn Yip, a second-year Business Administration student.

Yip is from Mauritius, an island off the coast of Madagascar. She is unable to go home for the holidays, because of high prices and strict quarantine measures.

“You cannot quarantine at home, you have to quarantine in a hotel,” she said.

Yip said it can be very expensive, around $1,000 a night for a good hotel.

“I wouldn’t be able to see my family long enough for it to be worth it. I feel very homesick, I’d just like to see my mom,” she said.

Humber has services available to support those stuck in Canada, as well as those leaving the country.

“Humber has purchased a 24/7 mental health and wellness service for international students that’s available in multiple languages,” said Andrew Ness, the International Dean at Humber College.

The service is called keep.meSAFE, and is available online or in a phone app. It’s free to use for all Humber international students having difficulties at this time of year and beyond.

Students can also email the international centre, as staff are not on campus to return calls during the lockdown.

As the college helps students who are going away, Humber also provides services for when they return to Canada.

“We provide students with very detailed information on what is required [to quarantine],” Ness said.

“We provide them with support and we’ve promised the government we’ll check-in, so we phone them four times during the quarantine period,” he said.

There are specific regulations that are required by the Canadian government for a safe place for students to quarantine. Humber can provide help if their home or residency does not meet those requirements.

“We have a quarantine stay option if students need, which we arrange for them,” Ness said. “They can be in a hotel room or an Airbnb, and are provided three meals a day and wifi.”

He said students can also receive bursaries, which can help cover some of the costs of these services.

“We want to help our students as much as we can,” Ness said.